Word of the Year: 2020 to 2021

For the growth-minded individual, 2020 begs to be reflected upon. I would contend that each of us has witnessed the thresholds of our disappointment tolerance rise; then, at times, at least, the capacity of our hopes fall. I am certainly no exception. Nonetheless, in reflection, I choose to delight in the ways God has sustained me and transformed the way I think, even through a year like 2020. I remember that to Him, a year is like an infinitesimal fraction of a day.

The word I dwelled on to guide my year was “perspective.” Perspective is the way we see things, and for me, this particularly meant the way I see the world and interact within it. What a timely word to enter my spirit before I would step into a season where fundamentally, everything I perceived about the year to come would dissolve into incessant unpredictability. In tandem, the desires I had for the trajectory of my life began to unravel, revealing impure and often indeterminate motives. Navel-gazing is a fitting term I’ve learned for the way I spent prior months of planning egocentrically disregarding how there might be more to the desires I had possessed. In my physical isolation in a small town, my perspective began to shift to one which is global and eternal. God was trying to answer a persisting prayer–I only had to pause and listen.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Slightly over three years ago, I went to the beach at sunrise nearly every day, praying the same prayer. Definitively, I didn’t know what I cared about in life. It seemed like everyone around me, especially within the realm of believers I had newly entered, knew exactly what mattered to them–which of the world’s problems they were going to solve and how. Given, in hindsight, I recognize my perception did not accurately reflect reality. Still, I knew I wanted to figure out God’s purpose for my life, disparate from the narrow plans I had left Him out of. So I asked God to give me a dream. Over and over, when I didn’t know what else to pray, a desperate plea of “please give me a dream for my life” became my mantra (often followed by, “because I don’t know what I’m doing!”).

I have gradually but radically changed over the last couple of years. But even after getting involved with organizations and causes of many backgrounds, I did not find one which settled into my spirit the way I trusted a dream would. In those years, I was circumspect in pursuing or even admitting inklings of dreams I’d had out of fear of misperception, lack of support, and failure. I thought my dreams might be lofty and therefore unattainable; so I pulled them back under the covers to sleep, not to be awakened unless by happenstance. Then, it was through forced seasons of rest when I learned that rest was the very thing which would rouse my purpose.

I am burdened by the way the world’s dispositions to time, work and rest have fallen so far from the rhythms God designed and modeled since the Genesis story of creation. I am burdened by the lack of boundaries in a seemingly endless work week. I am burdened by how infrequently I find two or more people who are truly present with one another, free of distractions and ostensible multitasking. In response, I’ve begun to practice a weekly Sabbath. I’m working toward continuously learning what this has looked like biblically and historically, and what that means for today. Although I am wending my way to concrete steps forward, God has expanded my faith to believe there is hope for change, and I can be a part of it should I offer myself freely to Him.

2020 taught me to dream. God answered many of my prayers this year in unexpected ways, as He does so well. My perspective has been entirely renewed and I have a number of dreams I might have laughed at a year ago, that I wholeheartedly believe I will see fulfilled. Rest seems to be a central theme through them all. In 2021, I am choosing to meditate on the word “fulfillment.” There are two definitions I consider here. “The achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted” serves as encouragement to hold onto hope to see dreams come to fruition. I can trust God’s character of grace and generosity to remain. “Satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character” demonstrates fulfillment as more than achievement, but contentment with progress. I want to find fulfillment in the things I pour my time and energy into regardless of circumstances, because my character has much room to develop through them all.

If I’m being honest, many of the dreams God has put on my heart this year scare me. Unless I put them in perspective and remember who gave them to me, I often feel overwhelmed by and alone in them. In many ways, that is all the confidence I need to know I am headed in the right direction, knowing any plans may only be accomplished through Him.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Philippians 3:12

Peace and blessings to you in the New Year.